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The Cost of Home Repairs and Remodeling

The Cost of Home Repairs and Remodeling


When the weather gets warm, many of us have dreams of remodeling and repairing. Know the cost before you begin!


By Gary Foreman

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Repairing and remodeling our homes is huge business. As a nation we spend more than $120 billion a year on contracted and do-it-yourself repairs. During any two-year period, most families repair or remodel their homes.

No wonder home centers are so busy!

It's satisfying to remodel and spruce up our homes - but it's also expensive. It's a good idea to have some idea of cost before you embark on a project.

Estimating Costs
Part of the difficulty in estimating prices is that each house and each job is different. Building codes and practices vary from place to place, which affect how a job must be done and what it will cost.

For instance, kitchen cabinets come in a variety of quality levels. Every kitchen has its own quirks. Both factors (and others) contribute to the cost of the job.

One way to get a feel for costs is to visit your local home center and total all the materials required to do a job. Add a dollar amount for labor and profit to the material cost. This will give you a rough idea.

Of course, the only way to know for sure what a specific job in your home will cost is to call one or more contractors to get an estimate.

Finding a Contractor
Finding a contractor is not as easy as sounds. Begin by asking friends for recommendations. The best referrals come from people who have already used the contractor.

Ask someone who works in a related business. Do you know a housepainter? Plumber? Real estate agent? Often they can point to a good contractor.

Look for contractors who carry the proper licenses and insurance.

Get Estimates
Try to get at least three estimates from three different contractors. Any fewer and you won't be able to compare them properly.

Make sure that the contractors are bidding on materials of similar quality and are intending to perform similar workmanship. Show them a sketch of how you envision the finished job.

You may want them give you options for the level of materials just above and just below those you think you want. This will give additional information when comparing quotes. Explain that you want the contractor to get any necessary permits.

Get the estimates in writing; don't depend on memory. Your goal is to put the bids side-by-side for comparison.

Deciding on a Price and a Contractor
The low bid isn't always the best bid. It could be due to lower quality materials or a contractor who is desperate for work. Working with a contractor who has some slack time is fine, but one who is desperate could go out of business with your job half done.

It doesn't hurt to ask a contractor if he can lower his price. You may want to ask if there's any part of the job that you could do yourself to reduce the cost. Sometimes a homeowner can do demolition or prep work to save a few dollars.

Competent contractors should be willing to provide a list of past customers who will recommend them. Take the time to call a couple of people on the list. Most are willing to spend a few minutes discussing their experience.

Once the job starts, make sure that you get the proper documentation from the contractor showing that they've paid for materials used on the job. You may be responsible to the supplier if the contractor doesn't pay and you don't want a lien on your home. Without the proper releases you could end up paying both the contractor and their supplier for the same materials.

Gary Foreman is a former certified financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher Web site .

 



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